Most experts say we are not ready for the massive job losses that will happen because of automation.
In most instances, we think we are interested in innovation, but we are mostly interested in incremental innovation, such as changing the proverbial flavour of the ice cream, adding a blade to a razor, or buying a welding robot.
A bigger step is social innovation, the changing of mindset, attitude, and culture. As Edgar Shein (1985) said, culture determines and limits strategy.
Many have figured out that if we dont learn to think differently, we will not solve our big problems.
A better toothbrush may be important, but it has little to do with finding ways to address complex issues such as racism, terrorism, violence, let alone the inability for rich nations to get people working, feed impoverished children, or address mental health issues.
The key to social innovation is deep listening, according to thinker Pauline Oliveros, the kind of dialogue that builds understanding, acceptance, and partnership.
It wasnt long ago, when people with differences women and minorities of all kinds endured violence and state-level oppression. Canadas residential schools are a clear example of state-sponsored and legalized violence.?
But social innovation processes allowed the world to change, for equity to evolve, and eventually, in many cases, become the rule of law.
But letting go of old ways is challenging. The process may require a long period of healing and an active phase of reconciliation.
The work done in South Africa, for example, under their Truth and Reconciliation agenda is not so much about boosting poverty rates directly, but empowering and healing so that oppressed people can address generations of collective trauma.
Social innovation may help us come together, but of all the kinds of innovation, I consider quantum innovation as the most misunderstood.
A quantum social innovation is the leap from one state of social consciousness to another.
Some think that quantum innovation is impossible because it requires a system to evolve in ways that are posthuman.
What is posthuman? It means getting beyond a limiting anthropocentric perspective where humans are the centre of everything something Indigenous people all over the world have known for millennia.
Those who study consciousness, neuroscience, computation, biological evolution, and creativity point to studies in evolutionary adaptation, quantum physics, and photosynthesis to identify non-linear change where a system, species, or structure evolves far beyond the rational addition of its components.
What we have discovered is that quantum change is all around us. The sub atomic level reveals evidence that not only is time not linear, but that one particle can be in two places at one time.
This is the kernel of what is known as quantum computing.
The biological perspective reveals many examples of quantum change, such as how cells or photons do more than regenerate, but evolve to create new forms.
Neuroscience tells us that consciousness extends beyond our brains to our bodies and perhaps even beyond.
In my view, artificial intelligence (AI) offers us potentially new ways of addressing our human limitations and offers a chance to refocus our energy on ethics.
New automobiles with assisted technologies are a clear example of the ways in which machines are assisting human beings.
We have already created new interfaces with machines that may give us a peek into a future where machines help us in unexpected ways.
The question that many ask in the field of artificial intelligence is what will we do when robots put 60 per cent of human beings out of work.
Many commentators see a global depression coming because soon robots will eliminate millions of jobs.
Before this happens, we must think about these challenges to human productivity and the human economy.
Might robots make us enough money so that we dont have to work? It depends on who owns them or programs them doesnt it?
Did you know that the current economy could not function without robots?
Artificially intelligent agents make the stock markets fairer by taking the human element out, so that trades can be conducted ethically and so that catastrophic events can be mitigated.
Just as artificially intelligent umpires will make our sports, like tennis, fairer, the same will happen to arenas where there is human error or emotion.
Ethics is the key discipline when addressing artificially intelligence and automation.
Soldiers who work with sentient machines (i.e. bomb disposal robots) consider their machine partners as persons and give them human levels of loyalty and respect.
Is this loyalty to the inanimate ethics?Can sentient machines help us make better ethical judgements and eventually help us be better, more compassionate humans?
Can robots assist us to create jobs? Can they identify and predict where we will face not just say weather and traffic issues, but where violence and conflict might emerge?
Can they lead us into useful court/medical/negotiation simulations where win-win outcomes will help us avoid conflict, ecological exploitation and war? Or will they simply steal our jobs, put our global economy into a tail spin, and deliver us into self-extinction?
In my view, machines can help us if we focus on evolving ethical ways for human beings to advance our mutual well-being with the planet.
What will we do? Instead of just asking how machines can help us be more innovative, let us ask machines to assist us in becoming more ethical and humane.
Stan Chung, PhD is the author of I Held My Breath for a Year available at stanchung.ca.
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